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Dead Again.

furthur-3In the fall of 1970 I was a freshman at Rutgers in New Brunswick, NJ. I remember wandering into a buddy’s dorm room and hearing a song that I had never heard before from a band with which I had only a little familiarity at the time, the Grateful Dead. The song that was playing was called Saint Stephen from an album my friend said was called Live/Dead.

Saint Stephen with a rose, in and out of the garden he goes
Country garden in the wind and the rain,
Wherever he goes the people all complain….

I had never heard anything like it. “Whoa. That was great. Play it again”, I said. My buddy did. Although there was no thunderbolt from the heavens,  I became a Deadhead at that very moment.

This past Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, I heard the same song at a show which I attended with my same buddy. The band we saw was Furthur, which Deadheads know is the Bob Weir/Phil Lesh band, along with the lead guitarist from the Dead cover band, Dark Star Orchestra, who is as Jerry as you can get.

The show was vintage Dead laden with late 60s/early 70s classics. The set list consisted of several songs–Dark Star, Saint Stephen, The Eleven–from that same Live/Dead album, a 1969 classic.

Set 1
Help on the Way>
Slipknot >
Shakedown Street
Jack Straw
El Paso
Wharf Rat
Terrapin Station Suite

Set 2
The Mountain Song >
Dark Star
The Other One
Saint Stephen >
The Eleven >
Death Don’t Have No Mercy
Franklin’s Tower

Encore
Saturday Night

This wasn’t my first Furthur show. I saw them earlier this year at the Carpenter Center, a 5,000 seat venue at the University of Delaware, (see earlier Struming, The Dead Live). It didn’t take long for Deadheads to understand that Furthur is as Dead as you can get (apologies to Dead drummers, Hart & Kreutzman who aren’t part of Furthur), and therefore the band needed to move shows to larger venues like the Garden, though they still play moderate sized venues as the Grateful Dead did years ago.

As a marketer I continue to be impressed with the brilliance of the marketing behind the various incarnations of the Dead. Beyond the music itself, the reason it works, and always has, is that the Dead understood the principles of “social media” long before Al Gore invented the internet. Their brilliance is that they don’t try too hard to “push” their music and ideas. They merely provide endless opportunities over the years for us to appreciate their music and be part of their community.

Early on the Dead allowed music to be recorded at concerts and shared. That was taboo in the industry. No matter to them. They understood that their following would be enhanced by exposure of their live concerts. And fans really “Liked” the Dead before there was a Facebook button to do so.

Lesh and Weir and band members, and their fans, may be aging (Lesh is now 70), but to me their music is as fresh and exciting as when I heard it for the first time 40 years ago.

Can you answer? Yes I can. But what would be the answer to the answer man?




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